In September each year, the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria presents the Royal Melbourne Show, and this year, the Australia Sleddog Sports Association was presenting. The team from ASSA organised an amazing space in the pavilion where most dog related stuff was going on, which they decked out with sleds, scooters, a stake out line, tv's showing videos, posters, photos, ribbons, trophies and most importantly, dogs!
Several people brought in dogs who each spent time on the stake out line, meeting and greeting the public as they came through. We had Alaskan Huskies, Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes and our friend H was there with Milo the German Short haired Pointer too!. We took our trusty public relations expert, Czar.
On the Sunday, we were mostly just there to set up and man the display. Obviously a lot of the people coming into the pavilion were small children or silly teenagers or other people without a lot of dog-sense. The ASSA team were brilliant at welcoming people and showing them how to approach the dogs without encouraging the dogs to jump or lick. Despite signs everywhere warning the public to seek permission before touching any animals, there were a lot of people who would have just walked straight up to the dogs in the wrong way. There were even people who wanted to stick fingers into crates to interact with dogs that had gotten tired of pats (I know, it sounds impossible) and wanted a break from all the poking and prodding. Excellent idea!
There was also a lot of talk about the amount of care needed for sled dog breeds, especially with two rescue dogs present, and emphasize that a pretty dog is not necessarily the best behaved dog, but needs to match a person's lifestyle. I had groomed Czar for a solid hour the night before, and he was still shedding continually enough to give me a nice layer of shag over my jeans. People's faces were pretty comical as they reached out to stroke the "wolf-dog" and came away with hairy palms!
On the Monday we returned to the show-grounds again. As well as doing duty on the stake-out/reception line, this time the dogs also got to perform on one of the small arenas. The creative ASSA ladies had dreamed up a couple of challenges for the dogs and mushers to attempt in the space available, with a professional commentator joining one of the ladies to explain to the audience what was happening. The audiences lining the railings were pretty thick, which was really pleasing. The mushers had a ball, pretending to be rough, tough sledders sleeping out on the trail and having to get themselves up out of the sleeping bags before harnessing the dogs and taking off for a lap of the arena. The dogs loved it too of course, although they didn't like having to wait for their turns!
We also held a mock sleddog agility competition, racing dogs up and down through a slalom course, yelling "gee" and "haw" to get the dogs around. That was a real challenge for the dogs, a totally new idea for most of them. Sleddogs have been known to compete in agility and even obedience (or is that urban legend?), and at times have excellent results. However, there's always the possibility of it going a bit like this: